A Prize Fighter Finds God

January 25, 2021

Between amateur and professional boxing stood Jesus.

By Richard Barney

This article was originally published in the September 2000 edition of our magazine.

The Bible was an open Book in our home. My mother would gather us children around her knees and tell us about Heaven, and she would tell us about that place called Hell. She painted Heaven as a beautiful place, and she painted Hell as a bad place. I made up my mind at a young age that I did not want to go to Hell. I am so thankful to the Lord for that upbringing.

I was a child who always wanted to do right. I did not drink or smoke. People used to pat me on the back and say, “He’s a good boy,” but God saw my need and sent conviction into my heart. Many times I would hide myself and weep, just wanting to do right. I did not know anything about holiness at that time. I did not even know there was such a thing as holiness, but still I wanted to do right.

Throughout my growing-up years, I worked at several jobs. At the age of nine, someone hired me to plow fields with a blind horse. Later I worked at the railroad and then at the gravel pit. My thought was that if I made plenty of money, perhaps that would satisfy me. I began prizefighting, and got really into it. At that time, I was living in the State of Kentucky. I remember so well that I left there to go to the State of Michigan with just one purpose in mind, and that was to be a professional boxer.

Soon, I became a professional “prizefighter” for the Lord—a minister. Thank God for what He did for me.

I am so thankful to God that between amateur and professional boxing stood Jesus. At the age of twenty-one, I returned to my home state of Florida to be married. While there, a lady gave me an Apostolic Faith paper, and she said, “God wants you to live free from sin.” Well, I was the kind of person who, if you said a good boy did not do this or that, I would never do it. And if I had done it before, I would never do it again. My response to the lady was that if others could live without sin, I wanted to live that way too, so I gave my life to the Lord. Soon, I became a professional “prizefighter” for the Lord—a minister. Thank God for what He did for me.

The Lord allowed me to attend my first camp meeting in Portland, Oregon, in 1934. I did not have a job at the time, but still said, “I’m going.” It was not an easy trip. Brother and Sister Frazier and my wife and I made the 3000-mile trip together in a Model T Ford. We had to push it to get it started, and many times one of us had to sit on the front fender to hold the brushes in the generator before it would run.

We left Florida with $100, two jars of jelly, and a fried chicken lunch. Day after day, we knew what we were going to eat—bread with a little jelly—that was it. The trip was difficult, with several flat tires along the way, but when we finally arrived in Portland, I fell on my knees and cried out to God, because something within me said, “You are home at last.” I was blessed to meet the founder of this work, Florence Crawford, and many others who helped to establish this organization.

A little over eleven years ago, when I was seventy years old, I was knocked down by a car that was traveling at about forty-five miles per hour. I was alone at the time, and drifted in and out of consciousness, but God was with me. The doctors said it was just a matter of time before I died. My people gathered around me, also thinking I was going to die, but the Lord said, “Live on!” I was so broken up that the doctors waited sixteen days before operating on me—they were that sure I was going to die. After they finally operated, they said I would never walk again, but I am walking!

This Gospel means everything to me. I am Apostolic from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet. Surely, I thank God for His great blessings to me.

 

About the author

Brother Barney began ministering in Florida, and later moved to Birmingham, Alabama, where he started a small Apostolic Faith work. In 1935, he was made pastor of the work in Anniston, Alabama. He was a humble man and one of the patriarchs of the Apostolic Faith work in the eastern United States. On February 15, 2000, after years of faithful service and leadership, he went to be with Jesus. He fought a good fight, he kept the faith, he finished his course, and he has gone on to receive his crown of righteousness.